Yes, there might be a whole gamut of Christmas films on Netflix and you might only just thinking about buying your presents (guilty!), but the city is doing its best to tempt you outdoors. There are so many incredible things to do in London at Christmas, so we’ve put together a little guide of things see, do, or eat through this festive season. Will you be enchanted by a festive light display? Drink your body weight in mulled wine? Fall head over heels for an ice rink (literally)? Whatever you choose to do, go forth and spread that Yuletide joy!
Start with wooden huts, full of lovely arts and crafts. Add a sprinkling of hearty street food. Top it off with a mug of mulled wine or boozy hot chocolate, and you’ve got a perfectly charming evening planned! Here are our five favourite options, but you can see even more in our roundup of London Christmas markets.
❄️ Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’s massive celebration of all things Christmas.
⛄️ Christmas by the River, cute riverside market with street food, crafts and pop-up bars.
🌇 Leicester Square Christmas Market, thriving market in the heart of town.
🎅 South Bank Christmas Markets, complete with cosy riverside igloos.
🍽️ King’s Cross Christmas Markets, six weeks and eight different themed markets which arrives back into town on November 28.
Amongst all the things to do in London at Christmas, this is a definite classic. Torvill & Dean you may not be, but ice rinks are undeniably fun whether you’re weaving in and out of crowds or inching your way along, clutching at the barriers. Get your skates on at London’s best ice rinks, and don’t forget to reward yourself with a hot chocolate after!
🧊 Glide at Battersea Power Station, with fairground rides for anyone too scared to step on to the ice.
⛸ SKATE at Somerset House, complete with rink-side bar to warm your cockles.
🌆 Canary Wharf, an enchanting rink among the skyscrapers.
🛍️ Westfield London Ice Rink, a vast rink with Europe’s largest Christmas tree (65 feet) – which this year is sponsored by the new movie Wonka starring Timothee Chalamet and Olivia Colman.
Some time around early November, London starting lighting up for the season. And while the city’s electricity bill may be trending upwards, the illuminations have certainly brought the sparkle to town. Here’s just a handful of the festive light displays you can find all over the city.
✨ Oxford Street, some of the earliest to turn on this year (back on November 2).
😍 Carnaby Street, where a walk through the history of Carnaby-Street-Christmas-lights-past awaits.
😇 Regent Street, where the spirits of Christmas shine down upon the city.
💙 Mayfair, whose blue arches turn London blue with envy every year.
Every year, a whole host of magnificent winter pop-ups take over rooftops, riversides, and terraces, steadily feeding Londoners a diet of glorious food, warming winter cocktails, and toasty vibes. Lovely stuff – especially when you get to cosy up in an igloo all the while!
❄️ Willows On The Roof, rooftop igloos perched above John Lewis Oxford Street looking out across Central London.
⛸️ Glide at Battersea Power Station, rink-side igloos to escape the cold and watch others glide on by,
☕ Tipis on the Green is London’s first sustainable Christmas pop-up with premium tequila brand Pimentae Drinks, and we think it’s going to be tip(i)-top.
🏢 Panoramic rooftop views, igloos and an ice skating rink at Skylight Tobacco Dock.
🔥 Thor’s Tipi at Winter Wonderland, not technicallyyyy an igloo (at all), but similar vibes with added warmth and joviality.
5. Hit the shops for some last-minute Christmas presents
Unless you’re the hyper-organised type who’s got their gifts bought, wrapped, and under an immaculately-decorated tree already, I’ve got a feeling you’ll be needing this one. Stores all over London are dressed up for Christmas, and here’s a few with sure-fire festive appeal.
😍 Liberty’s, always London’s earliest to open Christmas shop.
🎁 Harrods, the famous department store is full of festive cheer, both inside and outside.
⭐️ Selfridges, who have gone joyously OTT once more.
🗓 Fortnum & Mason, a fabulously bougie shopping mainstay for Crimbo.
💛 John Lewis Oxford Street, with a beautifully organised Christmas store and a festive rooftop to boot.
Syon Park’s stunning Enchanted Woodland may have finished, but there are still light festivals aplenty to marvel at. Everywhere from the boughs of Kew Gardens to the railways on the outskirts of London are lighting up this winter, and here’s where we reckon you should be heading.
🎇 Christmas at Kenwood, a magnificent light trail amongst the flora and fauna of Hampstead Heath.
🌈 Enchanted Eltham, the historic palace is dappled with colours.
🎄 Kew Gardens, where breathtaking lights adorn the trees and bushes.
🚂Epping Ongar Light Fantastic, a magical railway with stunning lights.
We have a pretty staggering dining scene all year round, but when Christmas comes a-calling, everyone from neighbourhood restaurants to Michelin star spots busts out the decorations. This lot below have had quite the glow-up!
🎠 sketch, London’s prettiest collection of restaurants is enjoying ‘a surreal white Christmas theme‘ this year.
😅 The Little Scarlet Door, check out their ‘New York Living Room’ theme with added canapés and cocktails by the Christmas tree.
🎄 Churchill Arms, London’s most Christmassy pub is festooned with over 80 Christmas trees.
🥢 Tattu London, luxurious modern-Chinese sharing menus and limited-edition Aurora Borealis-themed cocktails fit the bill for their ‘The Great Snow’ theme once again.
Red, green, and gold is traditional, sure, but when you’ve got the budget and the creative vision of the world’s top designers behind you, you can afford to dream a little bigger, darling. Don’t let London’s tree-mendous Christmas trees make you too envious though…
🌆 St Pancras, a fantastic tree which comes in collaboration with Hatchard Books and which even comes with benches under it so you can read to your hearts’s content
🌲 Covent Garden, because what isn’t amazing over at Covent Garden during Christmas.
💎 Claridge’s, which this year has been designed in collaboration with none other than Louis Vuitton.
🎅 Leadenhall Market, illuminating the entire market with its dazzling lights and striking decorations.
🎁 Trafalgar Square, love it or hate it – this gift from Norway is at least a dependable constant in the lives of Londoners.
Everyone’s got a favourite, whether it’s something traditional like Miracle on 34th Street, or something explosive like Die Hard (it’s a Christmas film, don’t @ me). Luckily for you, the finest flick-lovers in town have been cooking up enchanting new ways to watch the classics…
📽 Luna Cinema, festive films – at a palace, no less!
👑 Prince Charles Cinema, where you’ll be watching festive films all through December.
🎻 Candlelight: Christmas Movie Soundtracks – instead of watching the films, have your favourite festive film tunes brought to life in candle-lit environs. Pretty magical right?!
🎼 Enjoy an exciting programme of Christmas movie soundtracks at the stunning Cadogan Hall this year – sounds like a winner to us!
❤️ Everyone’s favourite Crimbo classic Love Actually will be playing at legendary Clapham venue The Clapham Grand on December 16. Expect added games, quizzes and plenty of Prosecco of course. Oh – and you’ll need to dress as an octopus or a lobster for the chance to win some epic prizes!
10. Get some festive cheer with a Santa-themed VR experience or some carols
From choir singers projecting to the rafters in the magnificent Royal Albert Hall to Crimbo-themed VR immersive experiences, there’s plenty of reason for some festive cheer this year!
🏛️ Now, when it comes to impressive buildings within the capital, then we’d argue that the Royal Albert Hall is right up there with the best of the best. Add in a Christmas show and you can see why we’re ecstatic about this one! Carols at the Royal Albert Hall will feature a presenter and soloist who will bring a selection of incredible carols to life. This year, they’re thrilled to announce British saxophonist Jess Gillam and conductor Greg Beardsell as presenters and Cleopatra Rey and Zara McFarlane as our soloists.
🥽 If the same old Christmas markets, carol services and ice skating rinks aren’t your cup of eggnog, immersive virtual reality arcade experience DNA VR offers the chance for you to get your hands on an alternative experience this festive season. This Christmas, DNA VR’s escape room Christmas Story is the perfect family game, with players given the important tinsel decked task of helping a stranded Santa get home in time to deliver presents for Christmas Day. Sounds like a challenge to us!
💡Thanks to internationally renowned, award-winning Creative Director Catherine Jewkes and light art pioneers Luminism, this year’s Christmas at Kenwood promises to be more enchanting than ever. Get ready to explore the magical trail centred around Kenwood House and witness the historical building bathed in glorious light. And don’t forget to take advantage of the countless photo opportunities and street food spots you’ll find throughout the light trail!
11. Sip on a bevy of Christmassy drinks
Let’s face it, you’ll be drinking enough mulled wine this holiday season – so why not mix things up? With London boasting some of the best cocktail bars around, you can be sure of creative concoctions that’ll bewitch the tastebuds and keep you feeling merry (within your limits, of course).
🎄 Miracle at Henrietta, the insanely festive cocktail bar absolutely full of Christmas décor.
🐟 Sexy Fish, a host of Christmas cocktails along with Japanese food, whiskies and plenty of festive cheer. They’ve even got a theme this year billed as ‘A Whale of a Christmas’ where they’ll be whipping up Sexy Fish classics alongside Perrier-Jouët Champagne. Even better? It will be decked out to look like a magical under-the-sea world – with an added humpback whale suspended from the ceiling to boot!
🍷 Sip away on mulled wine to your heart’s content at ‘Christmas up in the Sky‘ – a festive-themed delight perched atop the London Bridge Rooftop Bar. Enjoy panoramic views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and more – what’s not to love?
⛄ Speaking of rooftop bars, there’s another popular one that’s had a little Christmas makeover. Ladies and gentlemen, make way for Pergola Paddington’s ‘Deck the Halls‘, which is filled to the brim with street food, seasonal cocktails, and toasty welcomes – and it’s seriously dreamy!
12. Immerse yourself in a whole other world
Step off the streets of London and into a whole other world with these festive experiences and immersive installations. You can see the holidays in a whole new light, head back in time to a Christmas experience of old, or simply get wrapped up in festive cheer.
🕯️ Great Christmas Feast, let Charles Dickens take you on a whirlwind ride through a ghostly Christmas story.
🌎 Avora, it’s not specifically Christmas-related, but there’s enough lights to put Regent Street to shame and they probably don’t celebrate Christmas where this adventure takes you anyway…
🎭 London is famous for being one of the best places to watch theatre in the whole world, and with productions like ELF and Edward Scissorhands arriving this year, it’s gonna be pretty easy to escape to another world! Don’t miss our full roundup of London theatre shows to see this festive season to see everything that’s on.
🎁 Disney100: The Exhibition is still wowing crowds in London, bringing unseen delights such as rare props, original costumes, and moving pictures to the capital for the first time ever. Classic tales will be brought to life in a whole new way, and guests will be able to experience some of their favourite stories IRL, like never before.
13. Wander around some festive museum exhibitions
🦖Natural History Museum, see the T-Rex in their fearsome(ly cute) Christmas jumper and terrifying(ly adorable) Santa hat.
📮The Postal Museum, see the first commercial Christmas card that dates back all the way to 1843.
🚂 London Transport Museum, a wintry trail awaits, as well as visits with Santa and the museum’s own winter wonderland.
14. Have a cuppa with a festive flair at these Christmassy afternoon teas
⭐ St. James’s Hotel & Club, a Michelin-starred chef has designed their traditional Christmassy afternoon tea with modern touches.
🥂 The Savoy, ultra-luxe (ultra-obviously) collaboration with Champagne Laurent Perrier makes this the classiest of the yuletide afternoon teas.
🫖 The Gallery at sketch, an unbeatable festive afternoon tea in eye-bogglingly beautiful surroundings.
🎅Head Chef Ben Boeynaems will thoughtfully combine traditional afternoon tea flavours with unique culinary touches from across the pond, to create a festive twist on a classic offering at The Beaumont in Gatsby’s Room.
15. Craft yourself some Christmas cheer
The spirit of DIY has always been instrinsically linked to Christmas. From handmade ornaments hanging from the tree to hours spent constructing new toys and gifts on Christmas day, there’s always something craft-y happening. Brush up on those skills, or learn a new one, at these workshops.
🎅 London Transport Museum, decorate a festive fireplace to make a jolly pop-out Christmas card featuring Santa climbing down a chimney.
💐 Leadenhall Market, make your own wreaths with Floral Merchant London.
☃️ Speaking of wreath making, you can join experienced florist Hannah at Wecandoo in Fulham to craft your best look!
Look, half the point of the season is to annoy an old man in a white beard and red hat with requests for the LEGO set of the Death Star from Star Wars, right? At least, that’s what I did in 2021 outside a Manchester United game… But if it’s Santa you want to meet, be sure to head on over to one of his grottos that have dotted themselves around the city.
😅 Shrek The Halls, because Santa isn’t red and green enough of course!
🎅 Alexandra Palace, Santa swaps the North Pole for North London.
🎁 Visit the magical winter garden to meet Santa and his elf assistant at the London Transport Museum, or track him down in the Museum’s galleries for a jolly selfie. Climb aboard our Routemaster-inspired interactive sleigh to flash the headlights, ring the bell and set the Christmas cheer-o-meter!
🦌 Vauxhall City Farm is home to everything from chickens and chinchillas to sheep and goats. Heck, there’s even a pair of alpacas who starred in none other than Star Wars: The Force Awakens! And if that wasn’t exciting enough, this festive season Santa Claus is also making his way into town!
Sure, the turkey and all the trimmings may be traditional, but how often have you had a bite of dry turkey or unseasoned Brussel sprouts and wished you could have been eating anything else? Well, it’s up to you to convince your family to have Thai food for Christmas this year, if you want. But otherwise here are some other Christmas-themed meals you can eat in London – with no roasts in sight.
🤤 The Festive Raan Feast at Dishoom – turkey raan or (no-Turkey raan!), sprouts with lime-chilli dressing and café favourites including small plates, grills, biryanis and festive tipples to boot too. What’s not to love?
🍗 Head Sushi Chef Miho Sato at The Aubrey is fusing the very best of Christmas feasting with their award winning edomae sushi practice, for a set menu that transitions from a selection of nigiri and sashimi favourites, towards a festive robata turkey.
😋 Festive menu at Jikoni – Inspired by her mixed heritage and personal Christmas traditions, Ravinder’s festive menu will feature an array of creative and indulgent seasonal dishes, served family style. Sign us up!
🐖 Group feasting menus at St. JOHN Bread and Wine – This Christmas, the team at St. JOHN Bread and Wine has curated a selection of feasting menus for groups large and small. Centrepieces will come in the form of either whole roast pig, grilled venison, roasted Dexter beef or Roast goose and goose fat mash, with accompanying starters and desserts paired alongside of course.
🥟 This festive period at Poon’s Wontoneria in Fitzrovia, the pop-up from Amy Poon of the eponymous Chinese restaurant family, currently residing at Carousel’s No. 23 Charlotte Street – will introduce turkey and Chinese chestnut wontons to their winter menu. A festive special available in bowls of five, the seasonal wontons will comprise succulent turkey thigh, Chinese chestnuts, goji berries, ginger and wood ear mushrooms – a perfect alternative to traditional festive dining options this Christmas.
🍷 On November 2nd, The Laundry – Brixton’s all-day neighbourhood bistro and wine bar – will launch its new festive all-day menu from Head Chef Sami Harvey, just in time for celebrations in South London this Christmas. Available for lunch and dinner, guests will enjoy a selection of festive dishes with New World flair, alongside classic hearty winter sides of pigs in blankets, Brussel sprouts with chestnuts, Cauliflower cheese with sage and truffle gratin. Yum, yum!
🦆 Throughout the month of December, Fazenda are offering a special menu which includes berry balsamic glazed duck breast (Peito de Pato) and Wagyu ‘blankets’, complemented by South American dishes to complete the Fazenda Experience.
18. Get lost in a magical festive wonderland right in the heart of Covent Garden
Tucked away in the heart of Covent Garden, The Yards, is transforming into an unmissable winter wonderland this November and December. On November 17, the entire place was transformed into an enchanting wonderland with their Christmas lights switch-on – perfect for your old Insta or TikTok account…
Plus, if you’re here rom November 27 to December 18, be sure to check out the ’12 Days Of The Yards Christmas’ giveaway with fantastic prizes every other day, including ELF! The Musical tickets, Macbeth theatre tickets, a stay and afternoon tea at The Waldorf Hilton Hotel, The BANKSY exhibition tickets, and so much more.
Even your four-legged pals aren’t left out this season, as on December 3, The Yards hosts ‘Santa Paws at The Yards’ – a festive dog market with a pet photographer, sketch artist, Santa’s grotto, and tons of adorable stalls. Follow their Instagram account to stay updated, but for even more exclusive offers, join The Yards’ Close Friends Network by following and DMing them.
So there you have it – a curated list of the best things to do in London for Christmas. Keep your eyes peeled on this page though, as we’ll be updating this as and when we get new info!
Also published on Medium.